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Alzheimer's Disease Health Center

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Average Dementia Survival: 4.5 Years

Study of Dementia Patients Shows Women Live Slightly Longer Than Men

Dementia and Early Death continued...

Slightly over two-thirds of the people in the study who developed dementia were women, and the median age at dementia onset was 84 for women and 83 for men.

The median age at death was 90 for women and 87 for men. And average survival times varied from a high of 10.7 years for the youngest patients (65-69 years) to a low of 3.8 years for the oldest (90 or older at diagnosis).

People with higher education levels had slightly shorter survival times than those with lower education, but the difference was not significant. Living in a nursing home was also associated with slightly shorter survival than living at home, but, again, the difference was not significant.

As in other studies, dementia was associated with shorter survival, but the cognitive level among people with dementia did not appear to play a major role in death.

Caring for Those With Dementia

Researcher Murna Downs, PhD, says most people don't recognize that dementia is a disease people live with, and not just a death sentence.

Downs' research focuses on quality-of-life issues among dementia patients.

"People with dementia live a long time, and we now know that there is a lot of awareness," she says. "People assume that if someone doesn't know where they are they have no other capacity for thinking and feeling. But people with dementia continue to think and to laugh and to feel the rain on their faces, and to try to make sense of their world."

She adds that patients are often isolated because family members or other caregivers fail to recognize their need for interaction and stimulation.

"The therapeutic potential of human contact cannot be underestimated," she says. "You would never put a small child in a chair and let them sit there all day with nothing to do. Children need stimulation and human contact and so do people with dementia."

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